Episode 55: Consent Series - "How Can I Support a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted?"Support the show
Today, as part of a series on consent, we’re answering questions from local teens about supporting a friend who has experienced sexual assault.
This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic violence response organization, providing services at no charge for survivors of dating and domestic abuse for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: How can I support a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
Survivors of dating abuse often also experience sexual assault from a partner. It’s fantastic that you want to help your friend. So today’s guest is going to provide some easy steps to take.
Jessica of Safe+Sound Somerset: Today we’re talking with Lauren Gmitter from Sexual Assault Support Services at Zufall Health. This is Somerset County, New Jersey’s designated Sexual Assault Support Agency. Hi Lauren,thank you for joining us today again. Could you gives our listeners some ideas for how to help a friend?
Lauren of SASS at Zufall: Yes, Jessica, thank you Safe+Sound for having us back again. You know, it’s not always easy to know how to respond to someone who has told you they have been a victim of sexual violence.
Supporting a survivor of sexual violence starts with understanding that power and control has been taken away from them. Interacting with a survivor involves creating a safe space where they can be supported in reclaiming their lost power and control. The space you create with them can have a lasting impact. It’s helpful to learn how to respond, hold space for all kinds of emotions without judgements, and assist the survivor on their healing journey.
· Always believe. One of the biggest challenges a victim faces is that people don’t always believe them.
· Empathizing. Empathizing sounds like: “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
· Empowering sounds like this: “It’s not your fault,” “It took a lot of courage to tell me,” and that also helps to reduce the shame a survivor is experiencing.
· There is no right way or wrong way to feel or act. Let them know whatever they express is okay.
· Support them: let them know that you are here to listen and to support them in any way they need it.
· Most of all, listen. It’s the best way to support a survivor.
Sexual Assault Support Services provide:
· A confidential, 24-hour hotline. You can call 908-526-7444. There, you can schedule an appointment for crisis counseling, ask for support, get information, and we can also give you referrals.
· Survivor accompaniment to the police station, hospitals, or court through our Sexual Assault Response Team.
· Counseling is with a trained licensed clinician, who provides free individual and family crisis, short and long term counseling with survivors (age 13 and up) and their loved ones.
· These services are available to anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, no matter when the trauma occurred. We work with people of different gender identifications, cultures, ethnicities, and abilities. Bilingual Spanish-speaking services are also available.
It can be hard to create space for difficult emotions, but it is critical in order to validate the range of emotions survivors experience in the aftermath of violence. Don’t give advice, don’t judge, and don’t ask why.
J: Absolutely. Thank you so much Lauren, I think that information is so valuable to our listeners.
L: Thank you for having me, Jessica.
J: Here are a few more ways to help a friend:
Listen to your friend, and spend time with them. Not everything you do or say has to be about the assault. One way that survivors of violence of all kinds can take care of themselves and begin to heal is by spend time with friends and doing things they enjoy.
When you’re helping a friend, it’s a good idea to also take care of yourself! This can be hard work but it’s so important. Reach out to a trusted adult who can support you. Take time for yourself. You’re doing great!
To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.